Additionally, the study indicates that retailers that do not provide their customers with the information they need to make informed purchase decisions risk losing these customers now and as they make purchases in the future.

In WebCollage’s 2007 Survey of Online Consumer Product Research Habits, a full 91% of online shoppers polled said that they felt it was “important” or “very important” for retailers to provide complete product information to allow them to research products online. Shoppers, however, noted several current disadvantages to researching at retailers’ websites. 44% said they felt retail websites did not have the most complete information on manufacturers’ products. A third (33%) were concerned that retailer product content was out-of-date.

For retailers, the price of having poor online content can be steep. Shoppers who are not able to find the information they need to make a purchase are ready and willing to go elsewhere. In the search for more complete, up- to-date content, 37% of shoppers said they would visit a competitor’s retail website to find the information they needed. Recognizing manufacturers as the best authority on their products, 55% said they would go to a manufacturer’s website to find their information.

For retailers with poor product content, the cost of losing these customers goes far beyond the loss of one sale, though. While they lose customers, competitors that equip customers with the information they need to make informed purchase decisions inspire loyalty. 82% of the shoppers surveyed reported that they were more likely to return to retail websites that were able to provide them with complete product information to do research and make purchases in the future. In addition, 71% said that they would be more likely to purchase products in the physical store of the retailer whose website they had used to perform product research.

“WebCollage helps retailers establish their websites as important product research destinations for their customers. Providing complete, up-to-date product information from manufacturers helps retailers attract and retain customers at every stage of their purchase cycle,” said Jed Alpert, Vice President of Marketing for WebCollage. “And what we’ve found is that when a retailer establishes themselves as a trusted source of product information, this inspires customers to visit that retailer’s website in the future for research and purchases and even helps drive customers to the retailer’s physical store.

“With 71% of shoppers in our survey indicating they’d be more likely to visit and purchase from the physical store of a retailer whose website they had used for research, it’s clear that there’s a measure of trust and loyalty generated by providing customers with complete and up-to-date product information,” Mr. Alpert added. “There’s a convenience factor for customers, knowing that when they see something on the Web, they can go into the store and get exactly what they saw on the website. Moreover, the survey reinforces results from WebCollage testing, completed across hundreds of thousands of consumers on retail websites, showing that when consumers see enhanced product information from manufacturers on retail websites their conversions increase by more than 80%.”